Sequoia National Park is famous for its huge Sequoia trees, especially the General Sherman Tree in the Giant Forest. Sounds like something out of Lord of the Rings, right? Actually Sequoia National Park is home to the biggest living tree in the world (by volume), the General Sherman Tree. Also the park is also home to dramatic landscapes and many other famous attractions, including Moro Rock, Tunnel Log and the Giant Forest.
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General Sherman is a Giant Sequoia, and is the largest currently living tree. Up until the 1940’s, a Coast Redwood named the Crannel Creek Giant, also from California, was said to have been the largest living tree on the planet. It was a whopping 15-25% bigger than General Sherman! But that’s the whole point. You have to see these extraordinary natural resources before they disappear, because believe me they are disappearing fast!
Sequoia National Park Location
The park is conveniently located just South of Yosemite National Park. Actually it’s about a 4-5 hour drive, but it’s a lovely drive. Sequoia National Park is also conveniently located right next door to Kings Canyon National Park, which is only about a 1 hour drive.
Our itinerary began with an overnight visit in Yosemite National Park, then we drove South approximately 4 hours to our accommodation in Squaw Valley. From there it was an easy 40 minute drive into Kings Canyon National Park, and 90 minutes drive into the heart of Sequoia National Park.
Our search for accommodation was elusive. All forms of accommodation within the park were booked out solid. We found some great options on Airbnb within 1 hour of the parks, and chose a lovely 30’ RV on 5 acres of semi-cleared land in the foot hills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Our accommodation was only $100 per night, and turned out to be our most enjoyable accommodation for our entire road-trip! Funny that, the cheapest was the most enjoyable.
The roads in this area are beautiful, and safe to drive on. We stayed at an elevation of 1,000 feet and drove up to an elevation of some 7,300 feet just near Sequoia National Park. The roads are wide and safe, fully paved, and have plenty of turnouts where you can pull over and let faster cars pass.
Snow in June
At the start of June, which is almost at the end of Spring, we still found plenty of snow up above 7,000 feet. We even had the opportunity to play around throwing snowballs on the side of the road! This was a real novelty for me, as I have not seen snow for about 35 years.
Sequoia vs Redwood Trees
The main attraction was the General Sherman Tree. This is the largest tree on the planet (by volume). I must admit I did get confused by the giant Californian Redwood trees (biggest trees by height) and the Sequoia trees (biggest trees by volume).
Although the Sequoia trees are very, very tall, it is the thickness of their trunk which makes them so spectacular. Also the Sequoia trees are very rare.
They only grow in this region of the Sierra Nevada’s, and only in fairly small pockets of trees called Groves. There are only about 40 groves in existence, and they are all in this area!
General Sherman Tree
First stop for us was the General Sherman tree. The car park is elevated in relationship to the tree, and there is about a 15 minute walk down a moderately steep series of steps and pathways to get to the tree.
Going down was easy, but going back up to the car park was a bit of a struggle. Another bonus though, along the way there are many more magnificent Giant Sequoia to admire and photograph.
When we made it to the General Sherman there was about a 10 minute line-up of people waiting to be photographed in front of the tree.
There’s a footpath going right around the tree, and curiously around the back there was nobody standing in line. I guess it was the “General Sherman” sign which drew the crowds more than the actual tree.
After the General Sherman Tree we went to the Tunnel Log. This is where they cut a hole through a fallen Sequoia tree for the road to go through. If you do accidentally drive through without stopping, there is a little turn-around where you can come back for a photo. In the end we drove through it 4 times, more or less by accident. Virtually everyone who passes by stops, gets out of their car and takes a photo.
Another interesting tree just near the Tunnel Log is the Auto Tree. This was designed so there is a ramp driving out onto a fallen log, and cars used to be able to drive out onto it. Why? For repairs I think. It’s a great place to walk out for a photo.
Probably the highlight of Sequoia National Park was our walk through Crescent Meadow. This meadow area is apparently populated by many bears, so all the usual warning signs are everywhere. No food scraps to be left in the car etcetera. We were really hoping to see a bear as we did not see any in Yosemite National Park
The walk around the meadow took about 1 hour to go one way for us, although signage and maps were almost non-existent and we had no idea how long until the end of the trail. Along the way there were a couple of interesting attractions – Chimney Tree and a curious hut built into a fallen log.
Next we turned around and went back to the car park, spending about 2 hours at Crescent Meadow.
It was on the drive out of the park that we had our biggest surprise. Driving up the road we passed a random meadow, and I noticed a couple of shapes out of the corner of my eye. We pulled over and jumped out of the car to see 2 bears on the meadow! Real wild bears! We were so excited to watch these huge creatures finding food in the meadow.
Whilst watching the bears we inadvertently became a point of attraction ourselves. It wasn’t long before we attracted 2 or 3 other cars full of spectators to watch these amazing animals.
The bear sighting was a perfect finish to our quick tour through Sequoia National Park. Because we had been through Yosemite National Park and Kings Canyon National Park without seeing a single bear. And we thought we were leaving Sequoia National Park without a bear sighting as well. But right when we least expected it, a sighting.
Next morning we made the trek from Squaw Valley to San Francisco via Fresno. Much as our other trips it was a remarkably easy drive with nice roads all the way, not at all tiring. We will never forget our trip to see General Sherman in the Giant Forest, and all his gigantic tree buddies. As a result these trees will stay etched in your mind forever, they are truly unforgettable and worth the trip up into the mountains.
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